Some hard boppers have promoted the misconception that avant-garde jazz consists entirely of chaos and atonality. While there's certainly nothing wrong with atonal music -- it can be a joy if you comprehend it -- it's important to stress that jazz's avant-garde has a variety of faces. In the '90s, jazz's best avant-garde music ranged from the ferocious free jazz of Charles Gayle to the very musical inside/outside explorations of Either/Orchestra and Ann Dyer. Also quite musical is Living Daylights, whose 500 Pound Cat is a long way from atonal free jazz but isn't going to be mistaken for an Art Blakey tribute either. Combining jazz with funk and rock, the Seattle trio gives us plenty of recognizable, discernible themes and melodies, but isn't afraid to be challenging and take it outside when it's appropriate. From the Middle Eastern-influenced "Trauma and Discourse" and the eerie "Code Undo" to the insistent "Petunja," saxophonist Jessica Lurie, electric bassist Arne Livingston, and drummer Dale Fanning are consistently cohesive and sound highly focused. 500 Pound Cat is the work of an avant-garde group that knows exactly what it's doing.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson